French Top 14
Toulon defend Armitage over drug test
ESPN Staff
July 26, 2012
The ball slips out of Toulon flanker Steffon Armitage's grasp, Toulon v Toulouse, French Top 14, Stade Felix Mayol, Toulon, France, May 5, 2012
Steffon Armitage was in top form for Toulon last season © Getty Images
Related Links
Players/Officials: Steffon Armitage
Tournaments/Tours: Top 14 Orange
Teams: England | Toulon

Toulon have confirmed England flanker Steffon Armitage returned an "abnormal" doping test following the French Top 14 final against Toulouse - but they denied he took a banned substance.

Following reports that he failed a drugs test, the club released statement on Thursday morning insisting the result was caused by approved painkillers and anti-inflammatories prescribed for back pain and that Armitage "has absolutely not taken any illegal substance to improve his performance".

Toulon revealed the prohibited substance present in Armitage's test was morphine, but said this is a natural side-effect of the painkillers taken by the former London Irish player.

The statement read: "Toulon Rugby Club received a letter this Wednesday, July 25, 2012, from the French Rugby Federation reporting an 'abnormal' result from an anti-doping test taken by Steffon Armitage after the Top 14 final on June 9 at the Stade de France.

"Before the game, Steffon Armitage took two tablets of paracetamol codeine, a medicine strictly authorised by the French Agency for the Fight against Doping (AFLD). Having suffered with back pain in the week leading up to the game, Steffon Armitage was given anti-inflammatories as well as paracetamol codeine (two to four tablets per day) for these pains. All of the medicines administered are authorised by the AFLD.

"The presence of morphine in Steffon Armitage's urine sample is explained by the fact that 10% of this medicine (paracetamol codeine) is converted naturally into morphine. Steffon Armitage has absolutely not taken any illegal substance to improve his performances, but solely a medicine strictly authorised by the AFLD and well known to all."

Reports on Rugbyrama, the sports website of French daily Midi Olympique had claimed that Armitage, who was again omitted from England's elite players squad this month despite his terrific form in France last season, took the substance without medical permission for back pain ahead of the clash with Toulouse.

They added that Armitage has been provisionally suspended prior to an appearance before the French Rugby Federation's anti-doping commission on August 21.

Armitage won the last of his five England caps in 2010 but was widely tipped for an international recall prior to England's tour of South Africa following his strong form for Toulon.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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